April 18, 2018
April 14, 2018
April 11, 2018

TV Title Cards: In which I get political

Shocking, I know.

April 7, 2018
April 4, 2018

Title Cards: Buddy Cop Show Edition

Featuring phrases ripped from both the headlines and also context. Except for the one which is just a phrase I’m pretty sure I misheard walking down the aisle at the supermarket.

One’s a straight-laced cop. One’s a circus strongman. They fight crime!

They’re the department’s most decorated beat cops. They just made detective, but now they have to go under cover with LA’s hippest street-magician.

Technically could not have happened to a more deserving trio.

Honestly, all I can think right now is Jan Hammer music

April 1, 2018

Tales From /lost+found 154: Easter Special

And a happy Easter to you at home as well.

Click to Embiggen

5×1 In Harm’s Way: Presented with a mysterious box that carries a distress signal from an old friend, the Doctor makes a perilous trip outside the universe. When they arrive on a junkyard planet, the TARDIS seems to die, leaving the Doctor and Harmony at the mercy of a sentient, sinister planet, his only hope an strange, disturbed woman who claims to be his oldest companion…

March 31, 2018
March 28, 2018

Deep Ice: I thought you’d surely burned (Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s War of the Worlds, Part 2)

Previously on A Mind Occasionally Voyaging

I mean, the first half of War of the Worlds happened. You know the drill. There’s a very minor reordering of events so that the Curate can tell George about the Thunderchild incident. The curate is another kinda freaky character model, looking like he’s about one third Peter Lorre.

George has been incapacitated for days since the attack at Weybridge, and there’s a detail here which I’ve never seen in any other adaptation, though it’s implied in the book: after his near-scalding in the river, George’s face is badly burnt, and he’s pocked with blisters for the rest of the comic, even having what I think are visible scars in the epilogue.

The Curate’s breakdown isn’t as profound as in some versions, though he does go all gloom and doom, referencing Sodom and Gomorrah. Edginton retains that wonderful line where the narrator admonishes him as, “What good is religion if it collapses under calamity?”

Also kinda looks like Hyrule’s nerdiest Goron

It is from the Curate that George hears about the black smoke, before a sadly abbreviated version of the Thunderchild incident, told as just four or five red-tinted panels showing Thunderchild “smiting” one fighting machine before the “inevitable” outcome.

Ahem, it’s, “Standing firm between them,” thank you very much.

After being trapped in the collapsed house and witnessing the Martians feed, when the Curate decides he has to go “witness” to the Martians, George incapacitates him with a broken piece of lath rather than the flat of a knife, but the scene plays out otherwise the same as always. 

This is possibly the only adaptation I can think of that includes — and more, gives us a look at — the embankment machine, and even leaves in a note explaining that the machine is unpiloted.

One decision I find kinda odd is that they never actually say anything about the red weed. It’s there, as a kind of thick spaghetti ground cover, but the dialogue never brings it up.

Also, maybe just the tiniest bit phallic. George wanders through the depopulated town, lucking into finding some edible root vegetables in someone’s abandoned garden.  I really dig his self-satisfied look as he walks on with an armload of tubers.

I get a bit of a Don Quixote vibe from the windmill in the background.

The artilleryman is okay in this version. Not too distinctive. I don’t really get the sense that George is ever taken in by his “strange charisma” in this version, and is just going along with him out of desperation. Like, when the Artillerman tells the story of the people left behind in London partying in the streets the night before the Martians took the city, it occurs to George to question how he could know about it. Also, like George, the Artilleryman has gained a prominent scar, though given that his is from a cut, I wonder that it might have been from a human adversary over custody of that sword.

The Artilleryman tells George about the Martians developing a flying machine, but also adds in the idea that the Martians are building themselves an entire city, which I assume is to set something up for Scarlet Traces.

Nice visual homage to the Al Nozaki war machine, though in more of a Robinson Crusoe on Mars configuration.

One of the places where Edginton and D’Israeli get to expand on the original novel without changing anything is the way that they illustrate the Artilleryman’s thoughts. Like, there’s two panels illustrating the Artilleryman’s contempt toward what a modern telling would have him call “sheeple” in the form of a ersatz clone army.

“And then one particular cloning machine got badly out of sync with itself. Asked to produce six copies of a wonderfully talented and attractive girl called Lintilla for a Brantisvogon escort agency, whilst another machine was busy creating five hundred lonely business executives in order to keep the laws of supply and demand operating profitably, the machine went to work…” — The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

 

And this wonderful vision of the Artilleryman’s underground city, which is just about the most Victorian thing I’ve ever seen.

The underground city is really cool. It’s not just simple steampunk, but reminds me a lot of images of imagined super-highways-of-the-future from 1950s futurism, but with a more Victorian flavor that calls to mind, say, the Burlington Arcade.

But the jewel of this collection is the illustration of a fighting machine operated by, “Men who’ve learnt the way how!”

We’ve seen human-made tripods before, of course. But I guess it never really occurred to me that this would be what the Artilleryman was talking about, rather than humans simply stealing Martian Tripods.

Who’s a good doggie?

George slips out while the Artilleryman is asleep and makes his way into Dead London proper. There’s a few very evocative panels of the dead or dying, including a woman who, I assume, reminds George of his wife, prompting his suicidal charge at the Martians. But there’s also a number of panels that try to convey the scope of the human tragedy by just piling the streets with vaguely-sketched gray corpses, ash-covered victims of a smoke attack.

When the Martian tripod refuses to oblige George by killing him, he discovers the occupant dead, and as he runs off in his joy, he suddenly crests the edge of a crater — the geography gets a little sketchy here, since he’s presumably at a cylinder impact site in the middle of London, but we can’t actually see any London in the background — and finds the half-built Martian city.

He also gets to see the partially-built flying machine. I’m guessing the Martian city and flying machine are relevant to Scarlet Traces, since we dwell on it more than I think any other adaptation has.

Edginton has the narrator work out the Martians’ cause of death right on the spot, rather than it being presented as the best guess of scientists after the fact. It helps with the pacing some. I just love George’s goofy look of joy here. He becomes hysterical at the idea and eventually blacks out from it, awakening days later in the home of some locals who’ve taken him in. I think the family is meant to be Jewish — the man looks like he’s wearing payot and and kippah, but he’s drawn small and in dark panels so I’m not sure. I’m curious whether this family turns up in Scarlet Traces.

George takes the news of the destruction of Leatherhead oddly in stride. Upon hearing that “hardly anyone” escaped, he says only, “Ah, I see. Then I shall return home to Woking and whatever’s left there.” And indeed, he seems more sort of resigned than distraught when he returns home, pours himself a drink, and looks wistfully at a picture of his presumed-dead wife. You know, we’ve seen a few adaptations which use the protagonist’s desire to reunite with his family as the proximate motivation behind his actions. The Asylum had their George trek across Virginia to find his wife and son. Jeff Wayne’s version too has the Journalist driven by the hope of finding Carrie. But in the original novel, the narrator is almost bizarrely ambivalent about finding his wife. He spends a good chunk of the story heading for London for no clear reason, when he last saw his wife in Leatherhead and has no reason to think she’d left. I’ve got an adaptation coming up — if I can make it all the way through it — that actually makes something of that.

A young Sir Toppum Hat declares a salvaged Tripod “Very Useful”.

But George and his wife are indeed reunited and a few panels show humanity rebuilding. It says nothing specific about salvaging the Martian technology, though we do have a panel I think is meant to imply it. George mentions the possibility of man exploring space one day, though in the compressed storytelling format of the comic, this seems oddly placed, coming immediately after he speaks of his lingering emotional scars. And his scars aren’t only emotional. The final panels find George and Catherine paying a sombre visit to a tripod erected as a monument in a park. Though his burns have healed, George still bears severe scarring from them.

He also seems to have inherited his late weird-eyed neighbor’s hat.

The Dark Horse version of War of the Worlds is a very good graphical adaptation of the story. If you’re looking to just get the original novel in comic book form, it covers all the bases without really adding much of its own. But it does a good job of adapting the style and pacing of the narrative. Adapting literature to serial art isn’t necessarily a straightforward process, especially one like War of the Worlds where a lot of the drama comes in the form of long periods of fearful waiting. The art for anything Martian is fantastic. It’s otherworldly yet recognizable. And I just love the pumpkin thing the tripods have going on.

The other part I really like is the artilleryman’s musings. I’ve often said that it’s a big deal for me how the artilleryman is handled, and it’s interesting here that the narrative very straightforwardly makes the right choice of being very clear that the artillerman is kinda useless and wrong, but the matter seems largely irrelevant to the art. The art isn’t in tension with the narration here, but rather, the art is entirely focused on his dreams, while the narrative covers his abilities, and the gulf between them is left largely for the reader to discern. So we get these wonderful panels not just of the artilleryman’s brave new world, but also of these clone armies of praying priests and toiling salarymen to represent the artilleryman’s contempt for the masses.

Ordinary human characters are… Weird. In many cases, so weird that I assume it’s deliberate. The curate has this squished quality to him, and George’s neighbor looks like he was left out in the sun too long. George himself sports burn blisters for most of the story, which is a real nice touch. On the other hand, there’s so much variation in his character model that I’d have a hard time telling it was meant to be the same person if there were more than the one character who appears throughout the book. Maybe this is trying to show him becoming increasingly injured and broken by his ordeal, but it doesn’t work for me.

All the same, I really like the art. The thick lines keep the panels easy to understand even when they get crowded, and it somehow manages to seem very bright despite a palette heavy in browns and dark reds. And though there’s a minimalism to the range of colors used, the use of light and shadow really comes through well. I’d say it has a sort of cel shaded look, but I know that’s basically explaining it backwards.

I liked this, and I’m looking forward to Scarlet Traces to see how Edginton and D’Israeli use these techniques in more original material.


  • Dark Horse’s War of the Worlds is available from amazon.
March 24, 2018

Tales From the Found and Lost: Fun with Fonts

So last week, the BBC rolled out (after a couple of false alarms where fan art was mistaken for the real thing) a teaser of the title sequence for the Chris Chibnall era of Doctor Who, starring Jodie Whitaker. It’s fairly minimalist, with a touch of what some people who I think are stretching are calling symbolism (Some think the extension of the bar from the H to the O is forming a Venus symbol. It’s a stretch).

But I couldn’t help but notice, with its simple, very round font with prominent serifs  lightly decorated with extended cross-bars…

Click to embiggen

It’s nothing, really. Coincidence at best. Not even all that similar…

March 21, 2018

Deep Ice: They don’t die pretty (Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s War of the Worlds, Part 1)

It is May 2, 2006. I’m working on building a cat condo for Leah’s cat. Louis Reukeyser, host of Wall $treet Week (How I pray that some day when she gets too old to be cool, Ke$ha discovers a hidden talent for economics and takes over that show), dies. Puerto Rico is forced to close their Department of Education due to an ongoing budget crisis, but I’m sure they’ll turn it around. Silvio Berlusconi resigns as the Prime Minister of Italy, to spend more time with, I assume, sex workers. Surely, he will never be heard from again. Bjoern Hoen, Petter Tharaldsen, and Petter Rosenvinge are sentenced to seven, eight, and four years in prison for their roles in the 2004 theft of Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Madonna. The paintings will be recovered in August. This week also sees the Great American Boycott, also known as the “Day Without an Immigrant”, a protest by US immigrants against the broken and frequently racist immigration policies in the United States. I’m sure that’ll get sorted out soon too.

Well, this has been kind of a bummer. Let’s look to the world of entertainment… Doctor Who wins the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama this week. Saturday, it’ll air “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Steven Moffat tearjerker in which the Doctor romances Madame du Pompadour in 18th century France, but is unable to adopt her as a traveling companion because a faulty time window has him show up after her death. This past Saturday gave us “School Reuinion”, the return of Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. The episode would lead to Sladen being given her own spin-off, which would run for five seasons until… Well fuck. Every damn piece of news this week has ominous foreshadowing, and I haven’t even mentioned that this is the week 7th Heaven airs its series finale (Then goes on to get renewed anyway because we don’t yet know about Stephen Collins).

Madeline Albright is Jon Stewart’s guest tonight. Paul Reikoff is Stephen Colbert’s. We’re approaching the Police Procedural Event Horizon, with three CSIs, four Law & Orders, and the first of the NCISes. Power Rangers Mystic Force is off this week, returning next Monday with “The Gatekeeper, Part 1”, an episode in which the actual rangers themselves are tangential at best, a frequent weakness of this season, with its unusually large supporting cast. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse premiers this week, reuniting classic Disney characters in banal, toddler-friendly adventures as creepy, soulless CGI constructs, and forcing parents to learn something called the “Hot Dog Dance”. Mission Impossible III is out in theaters this week. Goodfellas comes on on HD-DVD.

Almost two thousand guitarists converge in Poland to simultaneously play Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe”, setting a Guiness world record. Pearl Jam releases the Avocado album. “Bad Day” is the top song on the Billboard charts.

I’m not overly literate when it comes to comics. I never really got past the fact that in terms of minutes-of-entertainment per unit cost, comics fall somewhere between hard drugs and sex workers. But I’m not disinterested. I’ve watched every episode of Atop the Fourth Wall, and studiously never bothered to read my copy of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics.

The upshot of all of this is that my knowledge and background into comics is sort of haphazard and lackadaisical. Which is how I ended up with a copy of the Dark Horse adaptation of War of the Worlds. Because, although this comic is just a very straightforward, very direct adaptation of the novel, it’s also something else: it’s a prequel to Edginton and D’Israeli’s 2002 series Scarlet Traces, about the imperialistic ambitions of an early 20th-century England, bolstered by reverse-engineered Martian technology. Edginton and D’Israeli’s War of the Worlds was published a few months before Scarlet Traces‘s direct sequel, The Great Game, with a fourth series, The Cold War being published a decade later. And I will probably get to those eventually, but it turns out that I’ve got a ton of these comics to get through, and I haven’t worked out what the minimum number of things I have to buy to get the whole thing.

Oh, and remember Pendragon? The folks who put out one of the most painful adaptations I’ve tried to fight through? Well, right after this adaptation came out, they took a stab at insinuating that Dark Horse had ripped them off, putting up a poll on their website comparing art designs from their “movie” to the comic. This was eventually settled, with Pendragon posting an apology on their website for giving the impression that they thought Dark Horse had ripped them off just because they pretty much said exactly that.

So with the ringing endorsement of having been accused of looking too much like a shockingly cheap-looking film, how’s Dark Horse’s adaptation? S’okay. It sticks close to the novel, despite being deliberately positioned to lead into Scarlet Traces. If there are direct references to Scarlet Traces, they’re subtle and don’t really change anything from the book. But I think it makes an interesting contrast to the Saddleback version in how it translates the story to the less verbose style of sequential art. And I find the art style cool in a lot of places, and… interestingly weird in others. So let’s take a look…

I like the art style here. It’s kind of a medium between the oddly over-detailed look we saw in the Saddleback version and the old-timey simplified style of the retro-Superman story. There’s also something unusual about the use of color that I don’t have the vocabulary to describe. It’s a limited palette with a small number of colors and exaggerated contrasts, but it doesn’t have the same harsh flatness of most comic art. Something like a pop art chiaroscuro that has a bit of an art deco quality to it.

It’s good to see the AskJeeves logo guy get work these days.

Whenever space is shown, even the night’s sky, it has this reddish nebula effect on it. It livens up panels which would otherwise have a lot of empty blackness. And if it sometimes seems a little excessive, at least it’s clear that D’Israeli has actually seen the night sky before, which gives him a leg up on both Pendragon and whoever did the covers for Howard Koch’s War of the Worlds II.

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